No matter what the genre, when the Shaw Bros' moniker appears at the beginning of a film, you know you're in for a one of a kind experience. Infra-Man (1975) is no exception. Though clearly inspired by the long running Japanese TV show Ultraman, Infra-Man goes far beyond mere imitation. It's colorfully frenetic and matchless in its energy. A thrill ride that is one of a kind. It's strange! It's amazing! It's Shaw-tastic!

The action starts right away when a van filled with children is rocked by a dragon that lands on the road in front of them. The dragon vanishes as the asphalt crumbles away, leaving the kids only moments to escape before the van tumbles down a cliff.

Japan bursts into flame! The fire, panic and destruction engulf helpless citizenry. Heroic Science Patrolman Rayma (Li Hsui-Hsien/Danny Lee who also stars in the CCT favorite The Mighty Peeking Man, 1977) busily rescues children from burning buildings.

Professor Chang arrives at Science Patrol Headquarters where he is questioned by reporters about the recent disasters. They should question the toupé he's wearing; it's a fashion disaster. Inside Science Patrol Headquarters, the Professor checks various high tech consoles that flash and beep. He asses the situation with members of the Science Patrol team who are dressed in futuristic silver lamé uniforms.

 

After an earthquake shakes headquarters, a transmission comes through on their observation screens. The hideous dragon face of their attacker morphs into the visage of Princess Dragon Mom, perhaps the strangest and most outrageous villainess in cinema history. The Princess, an ancient creature with designs on ruling the planet, is played by Terry Liu who is outfitted in a golden helmet with matching breastplate, a dragon whip, and a less than convincing blonde wig. Kudos should also be given to whoever dubbed the actress. In her utterly unique rapid-fire accent, she delivers this message, "Greetings to you earthlings, I am Princess Dragon Mom (she pronounces it without syllables Princessdragonmom) I have taken over this planet. Now I own the earth and you'll be my slaves for all eternity. The disasters you experienced are just small examples of our great power. Either surrender to me or I'll destroy all humans. I have spoken. It's all the warning you're going to get from me… you'll be destroyed!"

The professor attends a meeting of government officials, where the chairman states that, "The situation at this time is so serious, that it is the worst in human history." The worst ever? Wow, that is pretty bad.

The professor hypothesizes that Princess Dragon Mom and her monsters have been in hibernation. "They are intelligent. They're smarter than our most up-to-date super computers. We cannot underestimate them."

 

Professor Chang enlists the heroic Rayma for a dangerous experiment. In his underground lab, which is filled with even more "high-tech" equipment, the Professor explains the process of changing a man into the super robotic Infra-Man, "adrenaline will be injected into him, he will be powered by a miniature nuclear reactor. Rayma, you'll have to go through the sufferings of hell."

"Sir, I'm prepared to die to save mankind. I am ready." Rayma is laid out on a table and the infra-process begins.

In her mountain side lair, the Princess cracks her whip to assemble her monsters. In role call fashion, each demon (kung fu stuntmen in zany rubber monster suits) appears, jumping and shouting, ready to fight. Princess Dragon Mom sends her first two mutants to attack Science Patrol Headquarters. Nemesis, a rock creature with a bad attitude, kidnaps unsuspecting Science Patrol member Tu Ming by flipping his VW Bug. A plant monster burrows into the ground underneath Science Patrol Headquarters and sprouts giant plant tentacles that wreak havoc.

 

The delicate process of creating Infra-Man continues as the professor lays in transistors and wiring. Rayma's life hangs in the balance when the electricity is knocked out by the attacking philodendron. When the power is finally restored the fusion of man and machine is complete. "Rayma," the Professor announces, "you are now Infra-Man."

In his spiffy silver and red leather super suit, Rayma springs forth from the table in a series of acrobatic flips that are accompanied by infra-sound effects. Infra-Man launches into action by hacking away at the giant tentacles in an attempt to prune back the attacking plant. Burning acid spews forth from the pruned limbs which quickly grow back. Infra-Man gets to the heart of the matter by using his infra-darts. This stuns the creature back to normal size and a kung fu fight ensues.

Infra-Man uses his strength to toss the plant into a nearby forest where the fight continues with wild wire work and acrobatics. Infra-man eventually triumphs by cornering the plant monster and using his infra-ray to turn him into a charred pile of mulch.

 

Surrounded by enthusiastic monsters, Tu Ming is held captive deep inside Princess Dragon Mom's lair. "Tu Ming, you will do as I say or you will be dropped into a bottomless pit." Poor guy, what kind of choice is that? She Demon, the girl monster with claws and hypnotic eyeballs in the palms of her hands, straps Tu Ming into a brain washing machine that fries his mind.

After his first successful battle, the Professor informs Rayma that he has used only a fraction of his power. "There are other weapons I haven't given you as yet. For success it's essential that you have thunder ball fists."

"I can have such a thing?"

"That's right. Thunder ball fists."

 

Tu Ming returns to Science Patrol Headquarters where no one seems too concerned with his deathly pallor or the dark circles under his green zombified eyes. Tu Ming stuns a guard and gains access to the Professor's quarters. He steals the Infra-Man blueprints and is chased to a remote area outside of town where Rayma and other silver clad Science Patrol members do battle with the boisterous bug monster and the Princess' skull guards. Amid all the chop sockey action, bug guy uses power spit pellets that explode and encapsulate the victim in a web ball. Rayma transforms into Infra-Man, using his karate skills and lasers to battle the bug.

"I'll destroy all of you!" the bug shouts as he grows into a gigantic insect. Infra-Man uses his infra-grow to combat the threat. This effect is achieved with "in-camera" optical effects. In fact, it appears that most of the visuals (with the exception of lasers that were added later) were practical effects created on set. Infra-man wins the giant battle by forcing the monster to return to normal size and literally squashing him like a bug.

While the professor's dopey children play in a cave, they overhear Tu Ming and Nemesis plotting to blow up Science Headquarters. The kids are captured but are rescued by Infra-Man who quickly disposes of the bomb.

 

After completing work on Infra-Man's thunder ball fists, the Professor retires to his room for the evening. The action comes to a dead halt while the Professor spends some quality time with his teenage daughter Mei-Mei. Thankfully things get rolling again when Nemesis and Tu Ming kidnap her. The professor is brought to the island fortress where the Princess holds court in her control room. "The life of your daughter is going to depend completely on your cooperation." To prove she means business, she drops Tu Ming into a volcanic pit, "That was the end of Ming. Your daughter will also be dropped into the pit of fire and her body will also become ashes unless you do whatever I order! In ten seconds I want an answer!" The Professor knows that Infra-Man will save them from destruction, but the Princess has other plans for our nuclear powered hero.

"I already know how Infra-Man gets his power from the sun and so I intend to blow out clouds into the atmosphere. These clouds will block the sun, his power will rundown. Then the earth will be all mine!" Never let it be said that the Princess doesn't come up with original plans of world domination.

 

Rayma arrives at the southwestern inspired (sun bleached skulls are the dominate décor) entrance of princess Dragon Mom's lair. An energetically choreographed fight ensues with countless skull troops. Its kung fu bedlam when growling Nemesis joins the fray as the rest of the Science Patrol arrives. Rayma attempts to enter the stronghold but is stopped by Nemesis and the fire-breathing scaly monster. Our hero is seriously getting his butt kicked until he wisely does some back flips and transforms into Infra-Man. An intricate dance of kicks and punches is interrupted by Princess Dragon Mom who pumps black smoke into the air.

Nemesis is overjoyed, "HA! The sun is blocked! Now he's helpless, come on, let's finish him off!" Infra-Man does away with both monsters with a powerful fireworks fueled kick of his infra-boots.

In his weakened state, Princess Dragon Mom is able to capture him. "Infra-Man you're now my prisoner but now I will destroy you, yes you'll melt in six thousand degrees of heat!" The Princess has an affinity for long declarative statements and run-on sentences. At any rate, she sends our hero plummeting to his doom. When the Professor refuses to build a new evil Infra-Man, the Princess places him and his daughter into deep freeze.

 

Thing are looking pretty grim, but Infra-Man evades his fiery fate and battles more skull troops. When She-Demon joins in, Infra-Man uses his infra-blades to sever her deadly hands. With a well placed kick she goes tumbling into the fiery pit.

Princess Dragon Mom wields her deadly dragon whip alongside her twin robot monsters whose high-tech retractable weaponry look to be attached with children's toys (everyone knows its Slinky). They are quickly defeated.

In a final confrontation, the Princess changes into her reptilian form and uses her lasers and martial arts skills against Infra-Man. Utilizing his infra-blades, Infra-man severs her head, only to have it immediately grow right back. Again and again. He finally uses his thunder ball fists to displace her evil energy.

Infra-Man frees the Professor and Mei-Mei and acrobatically transforms back into Rayma. He leads his friends through the fiery destruction of the crumbling palace to safety.

In the light of a new day, a boat carries everyone back to the mainland. "As long as we have Infra-Man," Mei-Mei enthusiastically states, "the earth is going to be safe."

 

The DVD for The Super Infra-Man (the title's literal translation) is a special treat for fans that've had to make due with the long out-of-print cropped U.S. VHS release. The print used is crisp and bright, with vibrant colors that really pop. The film is presented in the original Shaw Scope format (approx. 2.35:1), which finally allows the entirety of the movies production design to be seen. Audio options include the English dubbed mono soundtrack as well as a remastered 5.1 mix of the original Mandarin soundtrack (with optional English subtitles). Special features include a collection of Shaw Bros. trailers, as well as 45 mins. of promos for other Chinese action flicks. Photo galleries as well as a text interview with director Hua Shan are also included.

Infra-Man combines several genres with spectacularly crazy results. It's a fantasy/sci-fi/kung fu movie that also takes inspiration from Japanese superhero shows and kaiju cinema. It manages to pack a mind boggling amount of action into is 90 min running time. All this, and the fact that it's colorfully campy to boot, makes Infra-man a distinctive cinematic wonder.

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